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A longitudinal study of motives for wishing to be thinner and weight-control practices in 7-to 18-year-old Swedish girls
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences, Caring Sciences.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences, Caring Sciences.
2012 (English)In: European eating disorders review, ISSN 1072-4133, E-ISSN 1099-0968, Vol. 20, no 4, 294-302 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The main aim of this seven-year longitudinal study, of 411 Swedish pre-adolescent girls, (aged 7–11 years, Year 1) was to examine a wish to be thinner, dieting attempts, described motives for wishing to be thinner, and weight-control practices. A further aim was to examine to what extent BMI accounted for motives for wishing to be thinner and weight control practices. A wish to be thinner and dieting attempts increased significantly with increasing age between the ages of 9 and18. The most frequently reported motive for wishing to be thinner was to “feel better about yourself”. Categories that emerged from the qualitative analysis of self-described motives for the wish to be thinner were for example to “correspond to the societal ideal” and to “wear particular clothes”. A majority of the girls adopted weight control practices that would be considered as healthy, but extreme weight control practices increased with age. Girls with BMIs over the 75th percentile reported a greater number of motives for wishing to be thinner and used extreme weight control practices significantly more often than the other girls. However, of the girls who changed BMI from above the 75th percentile to under the 75th percentile, 34.1% reported that they had not used any weight control practices at all. Our results show that girls at a very early age are aware of the ‘thin’ ideal in our society, wish to be thinner, and try to lose weight. The results point to the importance of detecting girls who wish to be thinner as early as possible. If we can employ preventive action in time it is possible that dieting behavior will never develop. By considering the motives for wishing to be thinner, preventive efforts might be perceived as more meaningful and relevant to the girls at risk of developing eating disorders.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. Vol. 20, no 4, 294-302 p.
Keyword [en]
wishing to be thinner; weight control practices; longitudinal design
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-122986DOI: 10.1002/erv.1145ISI: 000305507100006PubMedID: 21800400OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-122986DiVA: diva2:311566
Projects
The IDA-Project
Available from: 2010-04-22 Created: 2010-04-22 Last updated: 2017-12-12Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Wish to be thinner: Development and Prediction of Disturbed Eating: A Longitudinal Study of Swedish Girls and Young Women
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Wish to be thinner: Development and Prediction of Disturbed Eating: A Longitudinal Study of Swedish Girls and Young Women
2010 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The overall aim of this thesis was to examine the development and prediction of disturbed eating attitudes in girls aged 7–20 years. The four studies are part of a seven-year longitudinal project including 1279 girls in several age groups (7, 9, 11, 13, 15 years at inclusion) and their parents.

Study I showed that among girls aged 11 and 13 years, in addition to a positive relation between disturbed eating attitudes and age, eating attitudes, higher BMI than peers, a less healthy relation to family, and fathers’ eating attitudes, predicted disturbed eating attitudes two years later. Study II demonstrated that girls aged 9–15 years, who wished to be thinner dieted more often, thought that they would be more popular if they were thinner, were skipping meals more often and had a higher BMI, over five years, compared with the girls without such a wish. Study III demonstrated an increasing trend in the wish to be thinner and dieting attempts between the ages of 9 and 18 years. Motives for wishing to be thinner were, e.g., “to feel better about yourself” and “to correspond to the societal ideal”. A majority of the girls adopted healthy weight control practices, but unhealthy and extreme methods were also used. In Study IV, among girls aged 9 and 13 years, a wish to be thinner, fathers’ eating attitudes and mothers’ perfectionism contributed most to the prediction of disturbed eating attitudes seven years later. Protective factors were low BMI and more healthy eating attitudes moderated by high self-esteem, and low-to-medium degree of perfectionism.

In conclusion a wish to be thinner, higher BMI than peers, girls’ and fathers’ disturbed eating attitudes, mothers’ perfectionism and a less healthy relation to family predict the development of disturbed eating attitudes in girls. Low BMI and more healthy eating attitudes especially influenced by high self-esteem, and a low-to-medium degree of perfectionism protect against it. The “thin-ideal” is internalized early in girls and it is important to take a critical stand against the thinness ideal in our society, especially in families, and schools.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2010. 95 p.
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Social Sciences, ISSN 1652-9030 ; 57
Keyword
Disturbed eating, risk factors, protective factors, eating attitudes, family influences, perfectionism, wish to be thinner, self-esteem, longitudinal design 
National Category
Social Sciences
Research subject
Caring Sciences in Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-122993 (URN)978-91-554-7814-8 (ISBN)
Public defence
2010-06-11, Auditorium Minus, Gustavianum, Uppsala, 09:15 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Projects
The IDA-Project
Available from: 2010-05-17 Created: 2010-04-22 Last updated: 2010-05-18Bibliographically approved

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Westerberg-Jacobson, JosefinGhaderi, AtaEdlund, Birgitta

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